Compartmentalizing Airguns Part 1

Compartmentalizing Airguns Part 1

Best in class options

By Dennis Adler

When it comes to blowback action CO2 models with self-contained CO2 BB magazines, excellent triggers and combat sights, there are several choices including the first of the blowback action models, the Umarex Colt (Colt licensed) Commander which is a contemporary 1911A1 version, and the more modern Swiss Arms SA 1911 TRS which updates the design to match current .45 Colt Rail Gun (CQBP) models with ambidextrous thumb safeties, forward slide serrations, and a long, integrated Picatinny rail for lights and laser sighting systems. These CO2 models offer superb handling and accuracy (at 21 feet) for around $110.

Not everyone has the ability to buy every airgun they want (and neither do I), so you have to make some informed decisions on what to buy. With so many excellent choices today, in just the single category of air pistols, how do you decide? Sure, I get to test them all, but I only keep certain ones, the rest go back, and I make those choices through a process I call Compartmentalizing Airguns. This is simply breaking down specific interests into categories, or compartments. I have four. Since this is my article I’m going to use my interests, and since you are reading this, it’s pretty likely we have shared interests. So, what makes one air pistol more desirable than another? And price isn’t always the answer; in fact, to do this right price has to be a secondary consideration. read more


Revolvers vs. Semi-autos Part 2

Revolvers vs. Semi-autos Part 2 Part 1

The age old debate and 1911 magazine swaps

By Dennis Adler 

There was an overlap between the Peacemaker and the 1911 in the early 20th century, even in the military where the Single Action Colts were still being used, and this combination remained practical for southwest lawmen well into the 1950s. This match up of CO2 models is a factual portrait of a time in the American West when old and new worked hand in hand. (Single Action holster is a copy of Billy the Kid’s handcrafted by Chisholm’s Trail. The military 1911 flap holster is a reproduction of the U.S. Model JT&L 1942 from World War Supply)

It has been said that if you do something right the first time, you never have to do it over. At the turn of the last century there were a lot of armsmakers doing things over, especially for the U.S. military, which was in the rather unique position of having to find a large caliber replacement for the Colt Peacemaker and discovering that nothing was really working. The military began to abandon the .45 Colt Single Action Army in 1889 when the U.S. Navy purchased Colt’s new .38 caliber Model 1889 Navy double action revolver. With a swing out cylinder it was much faster to reload than a Peacemaker. But the 1889 was short-lived. It was replaced within the Colt’s lineup and in the U.S. military by the Models 1892, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1901 and 1903 New Army and Navy Revolvers in calibers ranging from .38 Colt to .41 Long and Short Colt. But none offered the stopping power of a .45 caliber Peacemaker. In 1905 the Marines Corps adopted another Colt revolver chambered in .38 Colt (or .38 S&W) aptly named the Model 1905 Marine Corps Revolver. This one saw only 926 guns produced before it was discontinued. By 1907 most of the earlier double action models were replaced by the Army Special model in either .38 or .41 caliber. read more


Revolvers vs. Semi-autos Part 1

Revolvers vs. Semi-Autos Part 1

Origin of an age old debate

By Dennis Adler

While it might sound far fetched, if these three air pistols were their actual centerfire counterparts, this trio of pistols and the two holsters, copied from originals, could have been photographed more than 100 years ago. By 1914 lawmen working still mostly untamed areas along the Texas-Mexico border were packing Colt Single Action revolvers and Colt Model 1911s. The holsters, hand-crafted in Spain, are copied from originals pictured in the book Packing Iron.

This is a debate that has, believe it or not, been ongoing for more than 100 years! The greatest difference in the 21st century, however, between revolvers and semi-autos is how they work, not what they shoot. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, semi-autos were small caliber pistols, the .25 Auto developed in 1900, .32 Auto developed by John M. Browning in 1897, .380 ACP developed by Browning in 1908, and in Germany, the largest caliber, 9x19mm (9mm Parabellum) developed by Georg Luger in 1903;  were cartridges made specifically for use with a self-loading pistol. Over the next century advances in cartridge design, the development of revolver cylinders built to load semi-auto ammo (Colt and S&W models built during WWI and WWII to chamber .45 ACP) and finally modern alloy and polymer frame revolvers, have given rise to wheelguns that shoot semi-auto cartridges in 9mm, 10mm, .40 S&W and .380 ACP. But, this is 21st century pistol technology, technology that has marginalized many of the distinctions between wheelguns and semiautomatics in respect to caliber options, handgun sizes, and practical carry. read more


Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 4

Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 4 Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

Sliding into home, almost…

By Dennis Adler

 “Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

– Ralphie Parker, A Christmas Story

One little problem

Birchwood Casey Perma Blue works on most alloy components as shown with the frame. But…the slide on the Swiss Arms 1911A1 is a different alloy composition than the frame and the Perma Blue won’t color it. Now, I have not had this happen with other alloy slides going back to the Gletcher Makarov TT-33, which turned out perfectly. But whatever alloy combination Swiss Arms uses for the slide doesn’t work with Perma Blue, it just beads up into little blue droplets and does nothing. read more


Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 3

Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 3 Part 2 Part 1

Antique or battlefield worn finish

By Dennis Adler

When we ended Part 2 the frame, slide and small parts had all been polished out. It is not a perfectly polished finish like a nickel gun; it is a gun in the white, a canvas upon which you can paint a picture of a much older and battle worn 1911A1.

Everyone says that you cannot use cold blue on aluminum alloy. And you can’t if you want a like-new blued finish. But if you want a worn, almost grey finish with blue tones, and some high edge wear, or a faded look, then you can use cold blue and a little gun oil to create a weathered finish. It works on steel, and it will work on a polished out zinc alloy air pistol.

Birchwood Casey Perma Blue worked perfectly on the polished alloy parts of the frame. I tested it on the grip safety first, and this is after one application and a light coating of gun oil to set the color.

The mix and the application

I used Birchwood Casey Perma Blue cold blue and gun oil on the polished grip safety as my test area to see what the finish would look like. If this finish remains consistent for the entire grip frame, then this combination will work as expected. Using cloth patches I applied the cold blue to the grip safety and watched it turn dark blue black and then haze to a dark grey, at which point I applied another patch with gun oil that set a rather well aged grey tone to the piece. It also left a little gloss. After rubbing it out with a clean patch I had a variegated blue grey part that looked old and faded. At this point I was satisfied with the look and completely disassembled the gun again to work on the individual parts. read more


Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 2

Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 2 Part 1 Part 3 Part 4

Taking off the matte finish, detailing small parts and cleanup

By Dennis Adler

Well it is a dirty job when you’re sanding off the matte black finish on the Swiss Arms 1911A1. I used a variety of sanding medium but mainly the 3M O11K Fine emory paper and 0000 steel wool, in that order. Here I am working off the finish on the grip frame.

The hardest part of this defarbing project with the Swiss Arms 1911A1 is the frame which takes the most time and effort to work around small corners, edges, and parts that are attached to the frame, such as the thumb safety. Once you have cleared this hurdle there remains only a few small separate parts to strip the finish from, and then it is time to do a thorough cleaning of all polished out parts, before removing the blue tape and cleaning out any debris that may have gotten past the tape and into moving parts. read more


Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 1

Defarbing a Swiss Arms 1911A1 Part 1 Part 2

Creating your own battlefield finish

By Dennis Adler

I picked the Swiss Arms 1911A1 because like several other blowback action models it is very close to the design of the c.1926 Model 1911A1, which still had the small thumb safety and original small military sights and spur hammer. The big change was a smaller trigger, checkered raised mainspring housing and longer grip safety spur. WWII models also were built with brown plastic grips, so the checkered plastic Swiss Arms grips are good. It is also a very affordable blowback action pistol at around $80.

Battlefield or weathered finishes are not nearly as desirable on collectible firearms as they have become on CO2 pistols copying vintage firearms. In fact, it would be safe to say that if every 19th or early 20th century based CO2 pistol was offered with a weathered finish, they would all be top selling airguns. Alas, only a few select models get the ageing process and the rest are produced in like new (or matte) finishes that seldom look like the originals except for nickel plated models. Defarbing is a term used for removing all modern markings from a reproduction black powder gun and replacing them with the correct period marks (and often ageing or applying a custom finish). Manufacturer’s markings are also removed so all that remains are the serial numbers required by law. Over the years I have antiqued my share of black powder guns (and a few cartridge models) for articles in Guns of the Old West. The same process on a CO2 pistol is actually a little more difficult because even the best air pistols are made from cast alloy parts, which are a softer metal. This is great for engraving (as evidenced by the series of Colt Peacemaker and Schofield models engraved by Adams & Adams for Pyramyd Air over the last couple of years), but polishing out and refinishing an alloy pistol is a dirty job. And bluing a zinc alloy gun is no simple task, either. read more